Luxury watch thieves in the UK prone to using violence
49,854 watches reported stolen since 2019
In a shocking revelation, data obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by global crime prevention database The Watch Register highlights a concerning surge in violence accompanying the theft of luxury watches across the United Kingdom.
According to The Watch Register’s data analysis from 21 police forces in the UK between July and October 2023, a staggering 49,854 stolen watches have been reported since 2019.
Alarmingly, approximately one in eight of these incidents, totalling 6,373 cases, involved violence. The Metropolitan Police, covering the UK capital, reported 28,999 stolen watches since 2019, with 20% of these cases (5,768) involving some form of violence.
Rise in violence
Beyond the Metropolitan Police area, a gradual increase in violent incidents related to stolen luxury watches has been noted.
Across 20 other police forces responding to the FoI, the percentage of thefts involving violence rose from 2.17% in 2019 to a concerning 4.09% in 2023.
High-profile celebrities, including boxer Amir Khan, singer Aled Jones, and Formula 1 driver Lando Norris, have become victims of violent watch thefts.
Khan was robbed at gunpoint of a £72,000 watch in London, Jones was threatened with a machete for his £17,000 Rolex, and Norris had his £144,000 Richard Mille watch violently ripped from his wrist.
Focussing on the severity of the issue, Katya Hills, Managing Director at the London, UK-headquartered The Watch Register, noted: “Trading in stolen luxury watches is lucrative and safer for criminals than dealing in drugs.
“The use of violence in obtaining these prized timepieces is terrifying, with extreme cases resulting in the loss of lives.”
Words of advice
Hills urged watch owners to keep their luxury timepieces hidden in public spaces across the UK and advised compliance in the face of violent thieves, relying on law enforcement and The Watch Register’s recovery services.
The company’s database allows owners to register lost or stolen watches, aiding dealers, jewellers, pawnbrokers, and auction houses in identifying stolen goods. The Watch Register actively searches for watches on the global used market and has a specialist recovery team that intervenes upon locating a stolen watch.
With an increasing demand for second-hand luxury watches, The Watch Register finds three to four lost or stolen watches per day, recovering 50% within a year and 35% within six months of the theft.
Owners are advised to insure their luxury watches, keep records of serial numbers and pictures, and remain vigilant in public spaces where thieves often employ distraction techniques.
To register a watch on The Watch Register database, owners need a unique serial number and proof of loss, with a non-refundable fee of £15 +VAT per watch for registration and a 5% location fee upon recovery.
The rise in violence associated with luxury watch thefts in the UK underscores the urgent need for increased vigilance and preventive measures among owners.
As the trend continues, authorities and crime prevention organisations, including The Watch Register, are actively working to curb this alarming surge in criminal activity.
The Watch Register database is the global leader in due diligence and crime prevention in the luxury watch market. It holds the world’s largest, most established, international database of lost, stolen and fake watches, containing data compiled over 30 years.
The company provides expert-audited theft checks for watch traders and buyers and specialist watch recovery services to victims and insurers.
The Watch Register database is independent of any brands or retailers. Its sole purpose is to protect the used watch market, assist theft victims, and support the police.
The Watch Register is part of the Art Loss Register (ALR), the world’s largest private database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectables (www.artloss.com).
Featured image: Watch owners are urged to keep their luxury timepieces hidden in public spaces across the UK. Image: Alvin Mahmudov